Nearly a decade ago, an up-and-coming builder named Rudy Rodriguez built a faded-green pickup that changed the scope of the traditional themed hot rod. The late '30s pickup body he used wasn't so different as far as hot rods went, but what he did with it certainly was: He built it as a highboy.
And boy, was it a hit. People who were getting priced out of the hot rod hobby felt vindicated: an orphaned pickup cab-even one from the late '30s-is still practically a giveaway. Naturally, copies abound.
Rudy's pickup deserves great praise, but some of those copies are a tough sell. For some reason, most builders picked up on that truck's radical elements, like its roof chop, its ride height, and its unlikely grille, yet seemed to ignore the essentials.
This particular engine and...
This particular engine and transmission came out of the '63 GT Hawk that Laurie's dad bought in 1965. With its original internals and ignition, it's largely stock; however, Laurie crafted the headers from tube stock and flanges.
But every once in a while, someone gets it right: the tall, skinny bias-ply tires, the relatively short wheelbase with the grille centered over the axle, and the collection of parts that point to a specific era, just to name a few.
Laurie Peterson has a history of getting things right. Back when Pro-Street cars fell from grace, he redeemed his tubbed Stude by reconfiguring it as a Pro-Tourer. Remember the pagan-gold '54 Chevy sedan with the Packard taillights that we featured in the October '08 issue? That's his work, too. In fact, it was while he was crafting that tail-dragger for Mike Frisk that he cobbled together this pickup for himself.
The truck just sort of happened, he admitted. "I was at the Monroe swap meet when I came across this rolling '36 Ford passenger-car chassis," he began. "I'd been thinking of building something like Rudy's pickup for a while, and there just happened to be a Ford pickup cab at that same swap." Here's how he put it all together.
Here are a few little known...
Here are a few little known facts about Studebaker engines. They're scaled-down copies of probably the prettiest engine going: an early Cadillac. In fact, they're so dimensionally close that if you open a few holes on a manifold made for a Caddy, it'll bolt right to a Stude (which, incidentally, rhymes with Caddy).
With the cab and chassis at his West Vancouver shop, Canada Customs, Laurie channeled the cab 7 inches and whacked its lid by an equal amount. "At one point, though, I noticed that the windshield was getting a lot smaller than the rest of the windows," he noted, "So I cut the cowl and pushed the whole frame down about an inch or so to get it to look right again."
With the body back on the chassis, Laurie mocked up the front suspension components, in this case a Speedway Motors spring and hairpins and a Super Bell '32-36 axle. Laurie shortened the chassis by about a foot but pushed the front axle so it centered on the spring crossmember, as it would've on a '34 and earlier car. But instead of using that crossmember, Laurie crafted another flatter one to establish the uncannily low ride height with the spring-over-axle arrangement.
The '36 chassis came with its own '40 rear axle, which Laurie retained; however, to make the frame sit right over it, he kicked it up about 10 inches. To make it ride properly with the lighter bed and lack of fenders, he pulled four leaves. He also split its radius rods when he converted it to open-drive configuration.
Part of the secret to a highboy...
Part of the secret to a highboy is its grille location. From the Model T to the '34, the shell centered over the axle. Get it too far forward, and a car looks like it wants to fall on its nose; get it too far back and the car looks disproportionate and fragile. An eBay score by Laurie's bud Mark Freeborn, this grille's a '37 Terraplane, probably one of the most polarizing shells out there: get it right and it's beautiful, get it wrong and it's tragic. The tall and skinny bias-ply tires are equally critical to this pickup's look. These are on '35 Ford wires.
What necessitated the open-drive conversion was Laurie's driveline choice. Remember the Stude reference earlier? Well, Laurie's is a Studebaker family. In fact, the pickup's transmission came from the '63 GT Hawk that his dad bought in 1965 (incidentally, Laurie learned to drive in that very car). A few years back, a brake failure put the car into the rear end of another, and until he could get around to repairing it, he decided to allocate its 289 and Borg-Warner T-10 four-speed transmission to the pickup project.
The cab might've fallen into Laurie's lap, but he certainly had to work for its bed. Long story short, he and his brother Geoff drove to Spokane, all night and in the snow, to get it. And to make it fit, they clipped both the areas ahead of and behind the wheel arch to preserve the bed's proportions.
There are a number of benefits when building a mongrel, as Laurie will note. Among them is the freedom to use whatever cool-looking parts show up, like the '40 Mercury dash and late '40s Chrysler steering wheel. The Terraplane grille just sort of showed up, a good thing, as not too many cars can pull off a beak like that.
"I think it all worked out because I sort of knew the look I was after," Laurie observed. "It's because I was more or less copying Rudy's truck. And I'm not ashamed in the least to admit it, either."
Laurie's still not sure where...
Laurie's still not sure where the seats came from, but he believes them to have an MG pedigree. Gary Economy at Tuck & Cover in East Vancouver trimmed them in a canvas. The shifter stalk that Laurie bent and drilled bolts to the Stude shift assembly. Imagine explaining the decommissioned grenade to the border authorities.
There are a number of benefits...
There are a number of benefits when building a mongrel, as Laurie will testify. Among them is the freedom to use whatever cool-looking parts show up, like the '40 Mercury dash and late '40s Chrysler steering wheel. Naturally, Laurie whacked about a third out of the dash.
Above and beyond taking about...
Above and beyond taking about 18 inches from in front of and behind the wheel house, Laurie made up the roll pan. Nobody knows the origins of the grille in that pan, but its radius makes a perfect fit. Incidentally, the finish isn't primer; it's a flattened enamel mixed to resemble a pint of red-oxide lacquer primer that sat on a shelf for decades.